This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

If you are a user of my textbook and would like to suggest a blog post idea, please email me at: john.weeks@sdsu.edu

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Mapping the Intersection of Poverty and Inequality

It is not news, I suppose, that inequality has been increasing in the U.S. and other parts of the world. Thomas Piketty, in particular, has made a name for himself analyzing the trends over time, as I have discussed before. But the topic is important and there is no immediate resolution in sight, so it is very useful to keep looking at it from different perspectives. Mark Mather and Beth Jarosz have put together a new report for the Population Reference Bureau that analyzes the intersection of poverty and inequality, including the spatial intersections. Although the full report is not yet available, they have given us a taste:
In the United States, the gap between those at the top of the economic ladder and those at the bottom is wide and growing. Since the Great Recession, public discourse has focused primarily on the earnings of top executives—the top 1 percent—in comparison with low-wage workers. But broader measures of income inequality also show a growing gap between the haves and the have-nots. The Gini Index, which measures inequality across households, recently registered its first significant year-to-year increase since 1993 and has risen by 20 percent since 1967.
The U.S. poverty rate has also increased in recent years, but at 14.5 percent the poverty rate is well below levels recorded 50 years ago when President Lyndon Johnson declared a War on Poverty. Poverty rates have fluctuated over time, increasing during recessions and decreasing during periods of economic growth. However, for many regions poverty and inequality have increased in tandem in recent years.
Check out the maps!



Monday, September 29, 2014

Battling the Beast as a Way of Slowing Down Migration-UPDATED

The Beast is the popular name given to the trains that run from the Guatemala border in the south of Mexico to the U.S. border in the north of Mexico. Over the years it has been a popular, indeed storied, means of transportation for Central American migrants aiming to cross into the U.S. without authorization. Publicity about The Beast peaked with the surge in unaccompanied minor children from Central America this past Spring. That flow has since slowed down considerably and one reason is that it has become harder to catch the train. At first, this was voluntary action on the part of the railroads, as reported in May by the New York Times:
Aurora Vega, a spokeswoman for Mexico’s immigration agency...said she was unaware of any new effort to clear migrants from trains. “It is an issue that does not concern us since it is private companies who operate the railways,” she said.
Not so, anymore, according to the Economist:
“LA BESTIA” (“The Beast”) still trundles along the length of Mexico, from Guatemala to the United States. But the infamous freight train has fewer people perched on its roof and clinging to its sides. Since last month the Mexican authorities have been cracking down on Central American migrants clambering on board; their ranks have dwindled from hundreds to dozens on each journey.
“We have an obligation to stop the migrants getting on the train, because the train is a danger to them,” said Humberto Mayans, the head of Mexico’s new migrant programme. Mr Mayans has cited the risks of travellers losing their lives or limbs from falling off the train when exhausted, or being pushed off by the gangs who prey on those aboard.
To be sure, there is concern that migrants will now just look for even more dangerous routes, and that is most likely to happen if the corollary of trying to cut down on violence in Central America is not acted upon. Sadly, we shouldn't hold our breath on that.

Today I received notice of a talk that will take place next week UCSD's Institute of the Americas dealing with this issue. The speaker will be Scott Hamilton, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service and currently the Director of the Office of Central American Affairs in the Department of State’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs. The announcement hints that the slowdown in the number of migrants might just be due to the hot summer weather, but it also suggests that Mr. Hamilton will speak to the issues of "How the State Department and regional governments have mobilized in order to address the crisis and to dissuade children from making the dangerous journey. We will discuss what the overall U.S. policy response is in the sending countries, what programs are underway jointly to dissuade children from migrating and protect them at home, and what can be done to address the root causes of the problem, such as citizen insecurity and drug violence." I hope this will be more encouraging than I originally thought.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Mayhew on Malthus

While I was traveling to London and Copenhagen recently, I had a chance to read Robert Mayhew's new book: Malthus: The Life and Legacies of an Untimely Prophet. Mayhew is Professor of Historical Geography and Intellectual History at the University of Bristol in the U.K., so he is not coming to an analysis of Malthusian thought from the perspective of a demographer, although demography is obviously central to the book. Spoiler alert: this is not a book that teaches you about Malthus's population theory. Whether deliberately or not, Mayhew either assumes that you have already read Malthus in the original or that you will be inspired to do so after you have finished his book--and you can do that online, by the way. Indeed, the availability of Malthus's essay online illustrates the point Mayhew makes in the final chapters of his book--that Malthus is still relevant today (although that is obviously not a surprise to readers of my book!!).

In the first part of the book, Mayhew kind of gets lost in the weeds of Malthus's time--trying to put him in context by discussing other things going on in England during Malthus life. While interesting, we have no idea whether any of those things really influenced Malthus or not. More important are his discussions of Malthus's legacy through time. To me, his most interesting thoughts are about the way in which Malthus was invoked to express ideas that bore little relation to his own thinking (and, here Mayhew appropriately acknowledges the work of my good friend Dennis Hodgson at Fairfield University, who knows more about Malthus than anyone else I know). In particular, Malthusianism came to mean birth control, whereas Malthus believed in self-control, not birth control. I think that most of us would agree that more of both self-control and birth control would make a better world.

Mayhew has written a good book, well worth reading, but if I were going to suggest just one book to read about Malthus, it would be the one by William Petersen: Malthus: Founder of Modern Demography. Written by a demographer and oriented toward putting forward Malthus's population theories, Petersen also puts Malthus into context in a more straightforward fashion. Curiously, Mayhew does not seem to have read Petersen's book, or at least does not reference it.

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Grandparents Are in the Countryside--English Version

This is an emotional weekend, in that my oldest grandson is settling into his first year of college at the University of York in England. He's about a 12 hour plane ride from us, but only about an hour train ride from his English grandparents. And that is not in the direction of London. We were just in London for a workshop at the London School of Economics on health and mortality inequalities, and over the years it has seemed to my wife and I that the average person in London has increasingly become relatively young and relatively new to the English language. An article in the British version of today's Economist helps to explain why: the older population in England is taking over the countryside--and that turns out to be a good thing for the countryside, if not for London.
In London, pricey properties and thriving high streets appear wherever young hipsters go; in the rest of Britain, pensioners often blaze the trail. Coastal towns, increasingly dominated not just by the over-60s but by the over-70s, saw a 128% rise in property prices between 2001 and 2011, above the British average uptick of 119%. Where the old have moved inland, to cathedral cities like Lichfield, high house prices have followed. Ray Nottage, head of Christchurch council, has no intention of chasing yuppies. When it comes to the local economy, he says, “we’re much more sophisticated than that”.

Nationally, an ageing population is a problem. But locally it can be a boon. The over-50s control 80% of Britain’s wealth, and like to spend it on houses and high-street shopping. The young “generation rent”, by contrast, is poor, distractible and liable to shop online.

Meanwhile, with the over-50s holding the purse strings, the towns that draw them are likely to grow more and more pleasant. The lord mayor of Manchester, Sue Cooley, notes that decent restaurants and nice shops spring up in the favoured haunts of the old, just as they do in the trendy, revamped boroughs of London. Latimer House, a Christchurch furniture store full of retro clothing and 1940s music, would not look out of place in Hackney. Improved high streets then entice customers of all ages.
So, next time I or some other demographer notes that aging can be a societal problem, remember that it's not all bad--as long as the older population has a little money to spend...

Thursday, September 25, 2014

World Contraception Day--Only One Day?

The 26th of September each year is World Contraception Day. It is too bad, of course, that we have to do something like this to increase both awareness of and access to contraception. Just as we save lives by avoiding and getting rid of disease, we save lives of women and their children by allowing women the choice about when or if to have a baby. One of the lines of research on contraception is, of course, to devise ever easier-to-use methods, and methods that, frankly, do not depend upon men, as Melissa Pandika has noted:
The male condom is king when it comes to effective sexual protection. Used correctly, it prevents sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and pregnancy alike. But there’s a big problem, especially for women in the developing world: Men often refuse to wear them.

Women in the highest-risk populations don’t always have the capacity to successfully negotiate condom use.That’s why a new generation of so-called multipurpose prevention technologies (MPTs) could spark a revolution. They would prevent pregnancy and STIs, and be largely in the control of women. MPTs could take various forms: a diaphragm sold together with an HIV prevention gel, an intravaginal ring that releases both pregnancy-preventing hormones and HIV-blocking drugs, and more.
Getting effective and cheap contraceptives in the hands of women is a key ingredient in ensuring that the UN Population Division's latest projections about higher-than-expected global population increase don't turn out to be true. And, if you want know more about the current situation with respect to family planning in the world, the UN Population Division has lots of resources:
World Contraceptive Use 2014
Contraceptive prevalence and unmet need for family planning are key indicators for measuring improvements in access to reproductive health. The data set World Contraceptive Use 2014 includes country data as of March 2014 from more than 1,000 surveys on contraceptive prevalence among
married or in-union women for 194 countries or areas of the world. Survey data on unmet need for family planning are included for 133 countries or areas of the world.
http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/publications/dataset/contraception/wcu2014.shtml
Model-based Estimates and Projections of Family Planning Indicators 2014
The Population Division produces a systematic and comprehensive series of annual, model-based estimates and projections of family planning indicators among married or in-union women for the period from 1970 to 2030. Median estimates with 80 per cent and 95 per cent uncertainty intervals are provided for 194 countries or areas of the world and for regions and development groups. A Bayesian hierarchical model combined with country-specific time trends was used to generate the estimates, projections and uncertainty assessments. The model advances prior work and accounts for differences by data source, sample population, and contraceptive methods included in measures of prevalence. The estimates and projections are based on the country-specific data compiled in World Contraceptive Use 2014. Model results are as of April 2014.
http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/theme/family-planning/cp_model.shtml

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Danish Roots

A principal reason to be in Copenhagen is to visit the village here from which my wife's grandfather migrated to the U.S. more than 100 years ago. We have the Danish census household data from the 1860 census showing my wife's great-grandfather who was born and living in Tranekaer--a small (and very beautiful) village on Langeland ("Long Island")--about 2.5 hours from Copenhagen, and from the 1880 census we have data for her grandfather, who at the time was only one year old--having been born in and was living in Tranekaer. The household listing from the census included my wife's grandfather, his parents and two older siblings, and a lot of other people, including a stable boy and house maid. A few years after the 1880 census was taken, my wife's family left for the U.S., settling first in Iowa, and then in South Dakota, where many family members still live (and where my mother-in-law was born). The highlight of the village--which turns out to be a popular summer resort these days--is the castle:


Monday, September 22, 2014

New Surge out of Syria

As bad as things have been for the past three years in Syria, this past weekend appears to have been the worst yet in terms of refugees. The United Nations estimates that 130,000 Kurdish refugees from Syria have flooded into Turkey as ISIS conducts what some are seeing as ethnic genocide in the north of Syria. Unfortunately, their welcome has not been too warm in Turkey, which has been resisting a long-time demand by Turkish Kurds for autonomy from Turkish rule. CNN notes that:
As Turkish Kurds have responded to their ethnic brothers and sisters in Syria, friction has heated up between the Kurdistan Workers Party and Turkish security forces, who used tear gas and water cannons against them in several clashes.
The number of Syrian refugees now in Turkey since the beginning of the conflict is approaching 1.6 million with no end in sight.
That last comment is the key one here, adding to the huge question of what is going to become of Syria--and when?

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Copenhagen is One of the Healthiest Places to Live

Continuing the list of places you might want to live (or not want to live, depending upon your predilections), I happened to run across a BBC News story on the healthiest cities in the world. Keep in mind that, despite the old myth that bucolic rural places are the healthiest places to be, in the modern world cities are where you are apt to live longest (which is often, though not always, a sign of good health). So, what are the cities? Monaco, Perth, Copenhagen. I am in Copenhagen right now, so  the story obviously caught my eye, especially since Denmark is also known as the happiest country on earth. There is a good deal of talk in this town about the very high tax on the sale of cars that limits the number of automobiles in the city, along with good public transportation and a strong emphasis on bicycling and walking as desirable forms of transportation. Overall, the country seems determined to lower its carbon imprint on the globe, and this is related to a sense of concern for others (rather than just selfish concern for oneself) that many here think is the key to satisfaction with life, which translates into high life expectancy because people are willing to bear the cost of excellent national health insurance.

Friday, September 19, 2014

No Current End in Sight to Population Growth

Thanks to Debbie Fugate for pointing me to a story about a new set of probabilistic population projections from the UN Population Division suggesting that any stories about an early end to population growth are likely to be premature.
Contrary to some earlier projections, the world's population will soar through the end of the 21st century thanks largely to sub-Saharan Africa's higher-than-expected birth rates, United Nations and other population experts said on Thursday.
There is an 80 percent likelihood that the number of people on the planet, currently 7.2 billion, will increase to between 9.6 billion and 12.3 billion by 2100, the researchers said. They also saw an 80 percent probability that Africa's population will rise to between 3.5 billion and 5.1 billion by 2100 from about 1 billion today.
The study, led by U.N. demographer Patrick Gerland and University of Washington statistician and sociologist Adrian Raftery and published in the journal Science, foresees only a 30 percent chance that earth's population will stop rising this century.
 Hang on, folks. It's going to be a bumpy ride.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Mediterranean is a Dangerous Place for Migrants

The border between the U.S. and Mexico can be dangerous for people who get caught up in the heat of the desert or the cold in the mountains, but the passage from Africa to Europe is almost certainly a more dangerous trip for migrants. The Economist highlights this with a story from the sending end about "Missing in the Mediterranean," focused on people (usually men) who quite literally drop out of sight after leaving home in Africa to find work or asylum somewhere in Europe. The New York Times has the story from the receiving end, where villages in Italy, in particular, help to rescue smuggled people and bury the dead (at least those who die in sight, rather than sinking to the bottom).
No one could accuse Pozzallo of indifference. This small Sicilian town, like Italy itself, has staggered its way through a skyrocketing migration crisis in the Mediterranean that has seen roughly 120,000 migrants rescued by Italian ships this year, almost triple last year’s figure, while nearly 2,800 have died in shipwrecks or in transit, a fourfold increase. And more bodies may be coming. Rescuers are searching in the waters near Malta after reports this week that more than 750 people may have died in two shipwrecks in recent days.
Over the past three years, Italian authorities have swung from a hard-line policy to “push back” migrant vessels to Libya, to a search-and-rescue program to deliver them safely to Italian ports like this one. Migrants still keep coming.
Today, Europe finds itself caught between a backlash at home against the rising numbers of migrants flooding the continent and international pressure to provide a humane response to a crisis that includes refugees from wars in the Middle East.
The conflict throughout the Middle East, including in Syria and Iraq and also Libya, Tunisia, and Egypt (not to mention the Palestinian-Israeli war) contributes to this directly by creating refugees, but also indirectly by no longer providing job opportunities for young men from sub-Saharan Africa who are fleeing, for lack of a better word, the high population growth and slow economic growth in their countries. North Africa, in particular, used to provide some jobs, but those are now less certain, so they undertake the risky business of crossing the Mediterranean, and may wind up disappearing in the process.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Child Brides--Yet Another Disaster Among Syrian Refugees

Life is obviously bad for Syrian refugees, and the future seems generally bleak. But now we have news that the future might even be worse than imagined if the current trend toward child marriages continues in the Syrian refugee camps. The New York Times has the story:
For many Syrians stuck in Jordan’s squalid and sometimes dangerous refugee camps, marrying girls off at younger and younger ages is increasingly being seen as a necessity — a way of easing the financial burden on families with little or no income and allaying fears of rape and sexual harassment in makeshift living spaces where it is harder to enforce the rule of law. As a result, Unicef says, the number of marriages involving girls younger than 18 has ballooned since the war in Syria started.
During the first six months of this year, 32 percent of all registered marriages of Syrian refugees in Jordan involved a girl under the age of 18, according to the Jordanian government. That percentage was up from 25 percent during all of 2013 and, according to Unicef, more than twice as high as the 13 percent of marriages in Syria just before the war that included girls younger than 18.
Even the figure before the war started was way too high, and symbolizes the problems that the country has faced and will continue to face. When young women are married off, they are susceptible to domestic violence, risky pregnancies, and eventually higher than average family size, not to mention reproductive health issues and, of course, an early end to their education. Increasing the percent of girls who are married can only make things worse in the long term.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Demographics of Scottish Independence--Scots Vote No

My wife and I are in London at the moment, and the news is alive with discussion about this Thursday's vote in Scotland about whether or not Scotland should break away from the United Kingdom. Recent polls in Scotland have suggested a last-minute increase in support for Scotland's independence, and this has led U.K. government officials, in particular, to scramble to combat this trend. However, my first response to polling results is to check with Nate Silver and his fivethirtyeight website. They did not disappoint, with an interesting analysis by Mona Chalabi pointing out that a substantial fraction of eligible voters in Scotland have already voted by mail and by law their vote cannot be reported ahead of the vote by polling agencies because it would amount to a pre-vote exit poll and could influence other voters. But, the demographics of mail voters provide interesting information. In general, the younger a person is, the more likely they are to support independence (youthful rebelliousness?), as shown in the chart below. At the same time, the older a person is, the more likely they are to vote by mail. So, we can infer that the already cast mail votes are predominantly "no" votes and these responses are not reflected in the public opinion polls.
I conducted my own private poll on the issue, asking the taxi driver who took us from Heathrow to our hotel what he thought would happen. He was adamant that the result would be a majority "no" vote. We'll find out on Thursday.

UPDATE--THE SCOTS DID INDEED VOTE NO TO INDEPENDENCE BY A VOTE OF 55% SAYING NO AND 45% VOTING YES.


Saturday, September 13, 2014

Is Ebola About to Take Off?

The Ebola virus is obviously not going away. Quite the contrary, everything is getting worse, as reflected in a news story and an opinion piece in the New York Times. As bad as the recent projections by the WHO might be, it seems that most scientists looking at the situation are even more alarmed.
The deadly Ebola outbreak sweeping across three countries in West Africa is likely to last 12 to 18 months more, much longer than anticipated, and could infect hundreds of thousands of people before it is brought under control, say scientists mapping its spread for the federal government.
“We hope we’re wrong,” said Bryan Lewis, an epidemiologist at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute at Virginia Tech.
Among researchers looking at the possible trajectory of the disease are those at Columbia University's Earth Institute, who put together the following figure:
Michael Osterholm at the University of Minnesota argues that the spread of the disease is due largely to its migration, so to speak, from isolated villages (where it can be controlled) to cities where it is much harder to cope with. And, for the moment, no one is charge in the battle against Ebola. So, we need someone to take charge, and then we need to keep in mind that battling Ebola takes a toll on battling all those other diseases that beset West Africa.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Domestic Violence Takes a Huge Toll on Health and Mortality

The Baltimore Ravens beat up the Pittsburgh Steelers in football last night, and they did that without star running back Ray Rice, who beat up on the woman who is now his wife and thus is out of football. We condone a lot of violence in human society and none of it is good, in my opinion. Domestic violence has been a huge problem for ever, but the Ray Rice story has brought it to the top of the agenda in the U.S., at least for awhile. This is helped along by a report released just a few days ago by the Copenhagen Consensus Center, which estimates that the cost of all forms of violence add up to $9.5 trillion dollars per year--more than 11% of the world's gross domestic product. But, as the Guardian notes, domestic violence is a huge part of this.
The report says that 43% of all female homicide victims are killed by a current or former intimate partner, and that 30% of women worldwide are subject to domestic violence during their lifetime – a total of around 769 million.
Domestic abuse of women and children should no longer be regarded as a private matter but a public health concern," says the report. It adds: "The cost of interpersonal violence... are almost wholly neglected in current development programming."
And neglected not just in development programming, but also in health care planning. Indeed, "accidents" happening to women are rarely reported in terms of domestic violence, yet that can obviously be a huge contributor to a woman's overall well-being, especially around the issues of reproductive health. It has been more than a 100 years since Margaret Sanger discovered that Italian immigrant women in New York City were afraid to say "no" to their husbands because they knew they would be victims of domestic violence. These were among the revelations that led her to begin the world-wide movement toward effective birth control for women.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Demographics of Moderate Islam in India

The Economist has a very interesting online piece asking "Why are India's Muslims so moderate"? The answer lies at least partially in demographics and is generally unsettling. Keep in mind that the answer to the question is an important one because the 180 million Muslims in India represent the second largest national group--after Indonesia. No Muslim majority country except Indonesia has more Muslims than does Hindu-majority India. So, what's going on? According to the Economist there are three key elements: (1) low levels of migration to Gulf states where hard-line Islam seems to be most intensively taught; (2) low levels of literacy and high levels of poverty that prevent the widespread use of social media, thus insulating the population from many inflammatory messages; and (3) the lively democracy in India that offers civic engagement to the average Muslim that is not available in most Muslim-majority countries.

The migration variable is particularly interesting because the right-wing fundamentalist Wahabi sect of Sunni Islam gained strength in Saudi Arabia in the late 19th century and has had an increasingly strong influence on Muslim attitudes as oil money as vastly extended the reach of Saudi thinking. Note that the migration referred to is largely economic (cheap labor) rather religious pilgrimages to Mecca. The article notes that a much larger fraction of Pakistanis migrate to the Gulf than do Indians and that helps to explain at least some of the difference in the more hardline attitude of Pakistanis compared to  those living in India. However, both of the demographic influences on moderation are vulnerable to change:
Rising literacy, an ever-more urban population and growing wealth and information may yet encourage more extremist factions to emerge. Large migration flows to the Gulf might yet help to bring back more conservative Islamic beliefs and funds for Wahhabi mosques and madrassas. Similarly, if Hindu nationalists in power were to grow heavy-handed, a backlash and a rise in extremism are easy to imagine. The stability in India is a remarkable achievement. With luck, zealots and murderers such as al-Zawahiri will therefore fail in their desperate ambitions. But preserving stability will be a task for everyone.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Migrants, Migrants Everywhere--Or Maybe Not...

My thanks to Rubén Rumbaut for pointing me to an article by Peter Sutherland, who is Chairman of the London School of Economics where, in fact, I will be giving a presentation next week. That point aside, Sutherland notes that much of the anti-immigrant sentiment in Europe and the U.S. arises from ignorance about the scope of immigration itself.
A new public-opinion survey by the German Marshall Fund (GMF) reveals that anti-immigrant sentiment stems largely from misinformation, not entrenched animus. The most important finding of the GMF’s Transatlantic Trends survey is that concern about immigrants falls sharply when people are given even the most basic facts. For example, when asked if there are too many immigrants in their country, 38% of the Americans surveyed agreed. But when respondents were told how many foreigners actually reside in the US before being asked that question, their views changed significantly: just 21% replied that there were too many. The same was true in country after country. In the United Kingdom, 54% of respondents said that there were too many immigrants; that number fell to 31% among those who were given the facts about foreigners. In Greece, 58% became 27%; Italy went from 44% to 22%; and so on.
The Transatlantic Trends survey also shows that the American public is not worried about legal migration, while around two-thirds believe that the children of immigrants are being well integrated into their communities. These findings should embolden policymakers to be more proactive in designing pathways for legal migration and policies to integrate migrants. 
Even when it comes to illegal immigrants, though US citizens express concern, they are more reasonable than their political leaders about how to solve the problem. A plurality of Americans surveyed by the GMF, for example, said that illegal immigrants should be allowed to obtain legal status.
Unfortunately, it turns out the politicians like Rick Perry and Ted Cruz of Texas deliberately distort facts in order to rile up "the base." The media often echoes misinformation, even if unintentionally, and so the facts are left in the dust bin. Sutherland concludes with the seemingly obvious, yet frequently ignored point that informed public debate is what a good democracy is all about. However, I'm not always sure that people in politics are necessarily interested in an informed public debate and that is where we get into trouble.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Is Copenhagen the World's Best City?

A few days ago, the New York Times noted that Copenhagen has been named the world's most livable city for the second year in a year by Monocle Magazine. I'm not sure what Monocle's credentials are to make this pronouncement, but the idea is that these cities "get things right." As you'll note if you watch the short video profiling Copenhagen, Tokyo, and Vancouver, one of the comments about Copenhagen is that they are dealing with "immigration issues." The Migration Policy Institute in Washington DC just released a report looking at the way that Denmark has been attempting to "mainstream" its immigrants. Here's the background:
Of Denmark's total population, 10.4 percent (580,461) were immigrants and their descendants in January 2012. approximately 30 per cent of this share lives in the two biggest cities, Copenhagen and Aarhus. Approximately two-thirds of Denmark's immigrant-origin population is from non-Western countries (the five largest groups are people of Turkish, Polish, Iraqi, Bosnia-Herzeogovinian, and Iranian origin).
You can appreciate that four of the five countries of origin are predominantly Muslim, but with a combination of Shia and Sunni backgrounds, and the other is a predominantly Catholic country--all moving to a country where Lutheran Protestantism is the state religion. The country pushes the learning of Danish and tries to keep immigrants in the regular education and employment channels, rather than providing separate programs. The country has also tried to limit family reunification and asylum applications while trying to emphasize the importance of entering as a labor migrant or a student.

How is all this working? I'll report back to you next week, when my wife and I visit Copenhagen for the first time. This will be a special visit because my wife's grandfather migrated from Denmark to the US (settling in Iowa and then South Dakota) in 1901. We know the village where he was born and even have a photo of the family's seaweed-thatched-roof house that was still standing 60 years ago when it was last visited by a family member. A couple of years ago a Danish student in my class pointed out that census household listings for Denmark's 19th century censuses were available on line, so I was able to download that information and confirm the information for her grandfather, who was age one at the time of the 1880 census.


Monday, September 8, 2014

Demographic Withering in Japan's Countryside

Thanks to Abu Daoud for pointing me to an article on NDTV about the withering away of communities in rural Japan. This is not necessarily a new story, because the rural population of Japan has been declining for some time, just as Japan's total population is on the verge of decline. In this story, the interesting thing to note is how long an offer of "move here and get a free cow" has been out there without much interest from anyone:
The tiny Japanese community of Mishima was desperate to reverse its shrinking population so officials came up with what they hoped would be a game-changing plan: free cows.
Anyone willing to pack up and move to the remote southern village of 379 residents would get a no-cost calf or 500,000 yen ($4,900) in cash.
Mishima's bovine brainwave has fallen well short of expectations, however. "The programme has been going for more than 20 years, and so far there has only been one person who took us up on the cow, and that was two decades ago," village official Shingo Hidaka told AFP, adding the cash had only a handful of takers.
Of course, most people living in cities could probably buy a cow if they wanted one, so a free cow is not too big a deal. What is interesting to me is the idea that it might somehow be a tragedy if these rural communities die out. Japan mirrors Italy and other low fertility countries in having young people head off to the cities, leaving the elderly to cling to the rural life as long as possible. Is that bad, or is it just part of the overall urban transition?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Demographics of This Year's Congressional Elections

President Obama was featured this morning on Chuck Todd's first week of hosting "Meet the Press" on NBC, and one of his talking points was the hope that Democrats can hang onto their slim majority in the Senate. More certain, however, is that Republicans will retain their majority of the House of Representatives, as Nate Cohen on Upshot noted in today's NYTimes. His take on this is based largely on demographics.
How is it possible that the Democrats, who have won the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections, are at such a disadvantage in the House, theoretically the most representative body of government? It is the biggest paradox in American electoral politics.
Democrats often blame gerrymandering, but that’s not the whole story. More than ever, the kind of place where Americans live — metropolitan or rural — dictates their political views. The country is increasingly divided between liberal cities and close-in suburbs, on one hand, and conservative exurbs and rural areas, on the other. Even in red states, the counties containing the large cities — like Dallas, Atlanta, St. Louis and Birmingham — lean Democratic.
While acknowledging the role of gerrymandering, which I discuss in the forthcoming 12th Edition as being the most likely explanation for what is going on, Cohen suggests that congressional districts represented by Democrats have a higher fraction of democrats than the districts of Republicans have Republicans. This allows Republicans to win close races out in the suburbs, exurbs and rural areas while Democrats win landslides in the cities. This could easily be a doctoral dissertation because there are a lot of variables in play. Keep in mind, though, that 81 percent of the US population lives within the boundaries of a metropolitan area, and since members of Congress all have the same number of constituents (currently a bit more than 700,000), it is impossible for the exurbs and rural populations to be driving the bus when it comes to elections for the House of Representatives.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Population 12E is on the way--Get your Updated App Now

The 12th Edition of Population went to the printer today and should be available sometime in October. In the meantime, you should download the latest version of the App that we developed for the iPhone to go along with the book. Like the book itself, the App has been updated. Besides the main points and learning objectives for each chapter, check out the new POPquizzes. A link to the App is at the top of the page. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Estimating the Impact of Executive Action on Immigrants

The Migration Policy Institute in Washington DC has just published a report in which they lay out their estimates of how many of the currently 11.7 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. might be affected by President Obama's executive actions--to be taken in lieu of any Congressional movement on immigration reform.
Using an innovative methodology to analyze the most recent U.S. Census data to determine unauthorized status, MPI examines scenarios for expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that has provided a temporary grant of relief from deportation as well as eligibility for work authorization to more than 587,000 unauthorized immigrants who came to the United States as children, as well as extension of deferred action to other populations.
With respect to expansion of the DACA program, MPI finds that:
1. Eliminating the current education requirement (high school diploma or equivalent or current enrollment in school) would expand the DACA-eligible population by about 430,000. Last month, MPI estimated that 1.2 million unauthorized immigrant youth met all DACA eligibility criteria at the program’s announcement in June 2012. Eliminating the education requirement would bring the immediately eligible population to nearly 1.7 million.
2. Extending eligibility to those who arrived in the U.S. before age 18 (from the current age 16) would expand the population by about 180,000.
3. Moving forward the length of residence to 2009 (from the current 2007) would add about 50,000 youth.
"Our work makes clear that the reach of potential changes to expand the DACA program or refine immigration enforcement priorities would be even greater if multiple changes were to be implemented at the same time — for example eliminating the DACA educational requirement and changing the age at arrival criteria," said Randy Capps, MPI's director of research for U.S. programs.
Note that these measures are not related to the issue of what to do with unaccompanied minor immigrants. The number of such immigrants has slowed substantially, but it has not stopped. Josh Voorhees of Slate reports that:
According to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, 37,477 of the child migrants have been released to a relative, family friend, or other adult sponsor already living in the United States. Several thousand more are currently living in one of a number of longer-term shelters spread across the country.
Even if most of these kids are no longer stuck in overcrowded shelters near the border, the government still has a massive problem on its hands. Under federal law, those children are eligible to attend public school while they remain in the United States, regardless of their immigration status. Communities that receive only a handful of children will likely be able to absorb the extra costs. But others—states like California, Florida, and Texas with large Central American communities—won’t have it so easy.
People in Washington, DC may have been just as happy to see this issue disappear from the headlines, but it will be back... 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

China's Changing Demographics Will Drive Its Economy and Politics

I have often-repeated the point that China's demography is a force to be reckoned with. Its rapid fertility decline put it on the path to economic development, which encouraged the government to loosen up on the urbanization process. Now, however, we have a rapidly aging, and rapidly urbanizing country. How is that going to work out? My thanks for Dr. Dobbins for pointing me to an article in Stratfor today that assesses what the folks at Stratfor think all this means. Spoiler alert--it's not good.
China's urban population may grow by as many as 230 million people in the next 15 years. But most growth will take place not in metropolises like Beijing, Shanghai and Chongqing but in the myriad small- and medium-sized satellite cities around them. And as residents flock to these cities, China's working-age population will begin to decline, and its elderly population will grow dramatically.

Together, these processes will underpin major changes not only in China's overall economic structure, but also in the financial, fiscal and political relationship between central and local government. The added burdens facing small- and medium-sized cities, especially those located deep inside China that are sequestered from mainstream global trade, will be substantial and perhaps socially and politically destabilizing.
The government has made clear its intent to limit immigration into top-tier coastal cities, and it will continue to use tools like the household registration (hukou) system to make it harder for all but the most established non-resident workers to live and raise families in these cities. Meanwhile, it will use those same tools -- relaxed hukou restrictions, programs to bring rural laborers into small- and medium-sized inland cities, greater job availability and other social and economic incentives -- to encourage laborers from the interior to migrate or re-migrate to these cities.
The above paragraphs summarize the analysis, which includes additional detail about the fact that an aging labor force will be languishing in interior cities that are essentially off the national political and economic grid. At the same time, a predominantly male rural population will be trying to figure out what to do with life. The demographic patterns for the future are pretty clear. Less clear is how the government will respond to them, but we can be sure that the government is keen to avoid something that would become the "Chinese Spring."


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Corruption Kills

Let's suppose that you have a disease for which there is a cure and someone says they will pay for the cure. But they give the money to a middle person who pockets its, and you die. The direct cause of death is your disease, but the real cause of death is corruption. That kind of scenario may account for as many as 3.6 million deaths per year in the world, according to a new report by the non-profit group One.org, as reported by BBC News.
One describes its findings as a "trillion dollar scandal". Corruption inhibits private investment, reduces economic growth, increases the cost of doing business and can lead to political instability," the report says. 
"But in developing countries, corruption is a killer. When governments are deprived of their own resources to invest in health care, food security or essential infrastructure, it costs lives and the biggest toll is on children." 
The report says that if corruption was eradicated in sub-Saharan Africa:
Education would be provided to an additional 10 million children per year
Money would be available to pay for an additional 500,000 primary school teachers
Antiretroviral drugs for more than 11 million people with HIV/Aids would be provided.
BBC also has a link to a report by Transparency International in 2013 (before the Ebola outbreak) which shows the percentage of the population reporting that they had paid someone a bribe in the previous year. The top two countries were Sierra Leone (84%) and Liberia (75%). Did corruption lead to Ebola? It certainly didn't help, we know that.